Jonathan Edwards' Postmillenial Hope

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From Edwards’ sermon, “Value of Salvation.”

There is a time coming that there will be a very great change in the world: those nations which now are covered with the darkness of heathenism and idolatry, or other false religions, shall be enlightened with the truth, and there shall be a more extraordinary appearance of the power of godliness amongst those that profess it, when God’s spirit shall be poured out on old and young, and the knowledge of God shall cover the earth “as the waters cover the seas” (Is. 11:9); “When they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know him, from the least to the greatest”; “When the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in and all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26). These, and suchlike expressions, signify the all nations shall be Christianized and be visibly holy, and that multitudes–great multitudes all over the face of the earth–shall be brought to the saving knowledge of God.

Their Happiness Shall Endure As Long As God Endures

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From Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “The Value of Salvation.”

So great is the happiness of the saved soul. They shall be delivered from all manner of sin, temptation, trouble and affliction, and shall live in the palace which God has built and where he himself doth dwell, and there shall enjoy everything they wish for. They shall enjoy the company of prophets, apostles, martyrs, angels and archangels; they shall see the man Christ Jesus, and even Jehovah himself, the Eternal Three in One, and shall be intimately united to him, and this happiness of theirs shall endure as long as God endures. How precious, then, must the salvation of that soul be in whose salvation is so much happiness.

These Are The Pleasures That Are Worthy Of So Noble A Creature As A Man Is

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From Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Christian Happiness.”

Doctrine: “A good man is a happy man, whatever his outward circumstances are.”

The good man is exalted out of the reach of all worldly evils; they cannot send forth their baneful influences so high as to touch him, and all the hurt they can do him is but a sharp medicine. Although it be bitter, yet it takes away those diseases that would in the end, if they were let alone, be a thousand times more painful and troublesome to him….

And is there any man here present that would be at all afraid of the pain of the prick of a pin for a minute, if he knew that after it he should enjoy a life of–suppose–seventy years of the greatest prosperity imaginable, without the least molestation? No more reason to fear a short life of seventy years filled up with trouble and affliction, when he knows that, at the end of it, he shall enjoy an eternity of the highest happiness….

You now are invited to the excellent and noble satisfactions of religion; you are invited to such a happiness as is the happiness of angels, and happiness that will be able to satisfy your desires. Be persuaded, then, to taste and see how good it is; keep no longer grovelling in the dirt and feeding on husks with hogs….

Don’t exercise yourselves any longer in acting below yourselves, in pleasing and tickling yourselves any longer, and thinking yourselves happy in wallowing and rolling yourselves in the mire. You perhaps think yourselves mighty happy in enjoying your hateful and abominable lusts, and so are the beasts ten times as happy as you are in the same things: those be not the pleasures of a man. The pleasures of loving and obeying, loving and adoring, blessing and praising the Infinite Being, the Best of Beings, the Eternal Jehovah; the pleasures of trusting in Jesus Christ, in contemplating his beauties, excellencies, and glories; in contemplating his love to mankind and to us, in contemplating his infinite goodness and astonishing loving-kindness; the pleasures of the communion of the Holy Ghost in conversing with God, the maker and governor of the world; the pleasure that results from the doing of our duty, in acting worthily and excellently: these, these are the pleasures that are worthy of so noble a creature as a man is.

Adam & Eve's Blame-Game (and Our Own) Inescapably Leads to Poverty

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When God examined Adam & Eve about their rebellion in the Garden (Gen. 3:12-13), Adam blamed Eve and the circumstances God had placed him in; Eve blamed the serpent and (by implication) the circumstances God had placed her in. According to George Grant’s very perceptive insight, such a blame-exchanging, responsibility-avoiding attitude necessarily leads to poverty.

Because if we are not to blame for our actions, then we are not responsible agents able to make changes in our lives. If the fault is our circumstances and not ourselves, then we will not view ourselves sovereign over our circumstances but them sovereign over us (and harsh taskmasters they be). And we will be stuck in a world of poverty.

This sort of [blame-exchanging, responsibility-avoiding] argument is the essence of sinful rebellion. Wherever it exists, there can be no escape from the downward spiral of want. If we refuse to regard ourselves as responsible agents before God, if we refuse to see our environment and circumstances as resources to be transformed by righteous labor, thrift, and planning for the future, then poverty of body and soul is our inescapable lot. If, like Adam and Eve, we insists that somebody else is responsible for our condition, then we will always be impoverished in one way, shape, form, or another. (In the Shadow of Plenty, 12)

Of course, the solution then is to take responsibility for our actions before God and view our circumstances as ‘resources to be transformed.’ Take responsibility!

First Lesson Learned From Recent Criticisms Over Abortion

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First, an introduction. Our church invited a guest speaker to come and give a lecture about introducing legal restrictions on abortions in Canada. (According to an Ipsos Reid survey, the majority of Canadians agree that there ought to be at least some legal restrictions on abortions.) We then advertised that event on Facebook. We understand that some people are upset by the very idea of legal restrictions, but the language of the ad was not inflammatory. Some of the criticism we received of the ad was civil, but much was not. This is the first post in which I hope to respond to some of those criticisms.

I was talking to a friend the other day about the guest lecture and she told me that of the women she knows who’ve had an abortion, each one wanted to keep the child but the father applied intense pressure on her to have an abortion. The women gave in to that pressure and had abortions. (I hope to address the issue of the fathers in a later post.) I can’t even begin to imagine how that woman must feel after having given in to the pressure to abort her own son or daughter.

Many years ago, I was holding a one-year-old boy. We bumped into a toy and it began to fall over. Instinctively, I reached out to steady the toy but as my hand stretched out, the boy slipped from my grasp and fell to the living room floor and hit his head. There was a bit of blood and lots of crying. My first thoughts were, “Oh no! I hope he’s ok. I hope there’s no permanent damage.”

And after a while he settled down. But for a number of years after that, if ever his development was a little bit later than his friends, I wondered if it was a result of that fall he had when I dropped him and he hit his head. It haunted my conscience for years. “What have I done to him?”

But there was no permanent damage; he’s fine. But if something like a fall and a bit of blood could haunt my conscience, I can’t imagine how a mother must feel after aborting her own baby. How that thought must torment her.

And perhaps all that rage we received in the comments to the ad was the result of haunted and guilty consciences pleading, “It was no crime! I’ve done nothing wrong! It’s my right!”

I would want these women to know that claiming, “It’s my right to have an abortion,” will never truly exorcise the ghost of your haunted conscience. It cannot mend your wound. But there is a medicine that can truly heal.

Did you know that many of the heroes and heroines of the Bible had blood on their own hands and committed other great crimes? David, the great Poet-King who wrote many of the Psalms murdered a man to cover up his own adultery; the Apostle Paul supervised the killing of many; Rahab, an ancestor of Jesus, was a prostitute. And the list could go on indefinitely.

But all these women and men had the blood on their hands and stains on their souls cleansed and their guilt removed by the shedding of Jesus’ own blood on the cross for sins. Jesus, His love, and forgiveness are the only medicine that can truly heal, truly deal with our sins, truly exorcise the ghosts from our haunted consciences.

Come to Jesus – He who stands up for women and forgives much those who have sinned much (see Luke 7:36-50). And those who come to Him, He will never drive away (John 6:37). If you have a Christian friend who goes to an evangelical church, ask her about forgiveness. Check out her church to learn more about Jesus Christ who “came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Pioneer Church Planting & Demonology

John Livingston Nevius (1829-1893)

John Livingston Nevius (1829-1893)

While we were in Madagascar and living in a culture dominated by African Traditional Religion, one of the authors that influenced our thinking and work there was John Livingston Nevius. He believed that the goal of missions was not churches dependent on workers and dollars from the West, but “self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting indigenous churches.” That goal and his methodology worked great in Korea. It was hijacked by the Communist Party in China. For a nice little intro to Nevius and especially his work on demonology, check out this article by Bruce Baugus.

When Life Is Hell

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I really appreciated this blog post from Nick Batzig a while back. He has the most wonderful quote from Thomas Brooks about the hells of this life (and limited to only this life!):

"Consider, that the trials and troubles, the calamities and miseries, the crosses and losses that you meet with in this world, are all the hell that you shall ever have: here you have your hell, hereafter you shall have your heaven; this is the worst of your condition, the best is to come. Lazarus had his hell first, his heaven last; but Dives (the rich man) had his heaven first, and his hell at last (Luke 16:19-31): you have all your pangs, and pains, and throes here that you shall ever have; your ease, and rest, and pleasure is to come: here you have all your bitter, your sweet is to come: here you have your sorrows, your joys are to come: here you have all your winter-nights, your summer-days are to come; here you have your passion-week, your ascension day is to come: here you have your evil things, your good things are to come: death will put a period to all your sins, and to all thy sufferings, and it will be an inlet to those joys, delights, and contents that shall never have an end; and therefore hold thy peace, and be silent before the Lord."

From Sheltered Spinster to Nazi Resister

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As the Nazi occupation of Holland began, so did the resistance movement against them. What was a Christian to do?

“We knew, of course, that there was an underground in Holland–or suspected it. Most cases of sabotage were not reported in our controlled press, but rumours abounded. A factory had been blown up. A train carrying political prisoners had been stopped and seven or seventeen, or seventy, had made it away. The rumours tended to get more spectacular with each repetition. But always they featured things we believed were wrong in the sight of God. Stealing, lying, murder. Was this what God wanted in times like these? How should a Christian act when evil was in power? (p. 87)

As Corrie wrestled with that question, the answer became increasingly clear. This sheltered, perhaps somewhat prudish watch-repairwoman who taught the special needs children at her church became the Haarlem leader of the resistance movement against the Nazis in occupied Holland during WWII.

Ostensibly we were still an elderly watchmaker living with his two spinster daughters above his tiny shop. In actuality the Beje [the ten Boom home] was the center of an underground ring that spread now to the farthest corners of Holland. (p.125)

Corrie simply tried to live faithfully in peacetime and that faithfulness took one shape; and then she tried to live faithfully in wartime and that faithfulness took a dramatically different shape. By faith, she had cared for ‘the least of these’; and then by that same faith she helped conquer kingdoms and put foreign armies to flight (Heb. 11:33-34).

The God of Ravensbruck & the Sanctuary of Fleas

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One of the most remarkable traits we learn about Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place is her confidence and trust in the providential care of God, even in the most terrible conditions – like living in the Nazi extermination camp, Ravensbruck. 

In the process of being shamefully stripped, Corrie and her sister Betsie were able to miraculously hide their Bible from the Nazi guards – further “evidence of the care of Him who was God even of Ravensbruck” (204).

Amazingly, as they suffered in the various extermination camps, and even as Betsie eventually died in one, they knew that God had brought them there for a purpose:

But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here…. Our Bible was the centre of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Life waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. (206)

God had brought them there for a purpose, and they knew that He would provide for them, even in the midst of all the evil and suffering around them. 

Entirely confident of His care, Betsie encouraged Corrie to thank God in all their circumstances. Betsie led such thanksgiving by example:

“Yes,” [prayed] Betsie. “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at [Corrie] expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.

“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for –”

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,'” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong. (210)

But it was Corrie who was wrong! God did make Corrie grateful for a flea! Some time later they discovered that it was the fleas that kept the guards from venturing too close to their infested quarters, and thus discovering their hidden Bible or disrupting their worship services. (220)

And so, “side by side, in the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. (222)